I spend a lot of time watching the Milwaukee Bucks. Okay, fine. I’ll start over.
I spend an unhealthy amount of time watching the Milwaukee Bucks, so when Giannis Antetokounmpo airballed a free throw against the Boston Celtics last Thursday, my mind didn’t think about the funny face Antetokounmpo made after the miss, but rather a random night in December.
On Dec. 7, the Bucks hosted the Portland Trail Blazers. The home team ended up winning in the final moments as John Henson blocked a Meyers Leonard floater, but, for the sake of this story, that is unimportant compared to what Leonard had done earlier in the game.
With 1:39 left in the third quarter, Antetokounmpo stepped to the free throw line for the first time in the second half, which happens to be on the same side of the floor as the Blazers bench. Upon touching the ball, Leonard looked towards an official and started counting slowly. He made it to ten with ease before Antetokounmpo released his free throw and followed the counting up with a short discussion with the nearest official.
Nothing happened. Antetokounmpo wasn’t given a warning and Leonard didn’t say anything on the next free throw, but the counting didn’t stop. The next time Antetokounmpo went to the line, Leonard (and Blazers coach Terry Stotts) counted with his hands for everyone to see:
Minutes later, Antetokounmpo made another trip to the line and the Blazers decided to voice their concerns with the officials by loudly counting as Antetokounmpo set up his shot:
So, what does this have to do with the airball in Boston? Was someone counting before Antetokounmpo shot it? No, but even if they had been, they wouldn’t have gotten to ten because after the All-Star Break, Antetokounmpo shortened his pre-shot routine.
The change seemed most apparent during Monday’s game against Houston, as Antetokounmpo didn’t seem to be quite as confident from the line (he shot 4-11) and certainly didn’t seem to be there quite as long. Following this poor free throw shooting performance, Antetokounmpo’s free throw shooting percentage had dropped to 52.9 percent after the All-Star Break, while it was a robust 75.8 percent before it.
I asked Bucks coach Jason Kidd about why Antetokounmpo had made changes to his routine despite shooting so well from the free throw line before the break and he replied,
After a long pause, Kidd continued, “That’s as simple as it gets. When the league makes a call, you make the adjustment or you’re going to get embarrassed. So, he made the adjustment.”
Antetokounmpo admitted that trying to find a new routine at the free throw line has been a struggle since the league made the call, but added, “Coach [Kidd] has been helping me whenever I go back at night to shoot or after practice when I shoot my free throws.”
“They’ve been helping me out on how to adjust myself and how to change my routine to be as comfortable as I can,” he said. “So, I think moving forward, I’ll feel more comfortable.”
On Wednesday night, he appeared to be more comfortable with his new routine as he hit all eight of his free throw attempts, but it might have actually just been his old routine as he was regularly timed by those on Free Throw Watch at around 12 to 13 seconds on each attempt in the second half.
And just like that, it appears that Bucks fans won’t be the only ones keeping a watchful eye on Antetokounmmpo during the final month of the season. The NBA will be watching too. And they’ll have their stop watches ready.
Clip of the Week
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) March 1, 2016
There was a number of great nerdy plays from the last week that I thought about explaining to you in this space, but this one was too wonderful to pass up.
Jabari Parker’s first three of the season. On a bullet skip pass from Antetokounmpo. I think all of Milwaukee could get used to that.
What to Read
Jabari and Giannis seem like a good duo. Duh. – Over at Bucksketball, Jeremy Schmidt took a look at some numbers to show that concern over the future compatibility of Antetokounmpo and Parker may be a bit overblown.
Greg Monroe still searching for his place with Bucks – Chis Mannix of the The Vertical talked with Monroe late last week about dealing with the Bucks’ struggles this season, his new role, and how he dealt with the trade rumors that seemed to follow him around last month.
Greg Monroe and the Bucks Deal with the Curse of Unmet Expectations – With the Bucks’ lineup change, SB Nation’s Paul Flannery talked with Greg Monroe and Jason Kidd about where the Bucks should go from here and where they should actually be on the path to becoming a regular playoff contender in the Eastern Conference.
Week in Review
Saturday – After a number of exciting performances, the Bucks failed to finish off last week on a positive note, falling to the Pistons 102-91. Despite poor shooting, Antetokounmpo was still able to put up 8 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists to go along with Khris Middleton’s 26 points and seven rebounds.
Monday – The Return of #BaselineBari and #PointGiannis. For the third time in ten days, Jabari Parker set a new career scoring high with 36 points to go along with five assists and four rebounds in the Bucks’ 128-121 win over the Houston Rockets. His partner-in-crime Antetokounmpo also recorded his second career triple-double with 18 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists.
Wednesday – After the excitement of Monday’s game, it almost felt appropriate that Frank Vogel and the Pacers were in town to throw cold water on the situation, which is exactly what they did in their 104-99 victory over the Bucks. Fastbreaks were down, the pace was slow, but the Bucks still had a chance late. Not as much fun, but still encouraging.
Next Week’s Preview
Friday – The Timberwolves will visit Milwaukee to take on the Bucks, but the only thing to talk about is the first two picks in the 2014 NBA Draft, Andrew Wiggins and Parker. Milwaukee has won both meetings in which both players have participated, but Wiggins has the decided individual edge head-to-head thus far.
Sunday – After taking on one of the Western Conference’s worst teams, the Bucks will host one of the best teams in the West, the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder have hit a bit of a rough patch, losing five of their last seven, and star Kevin Durant is not too happy with their recent performance.
Monday – The Bucks will have a road back-to-back, but their travel couldn’t be easier as they will have to make the short trip down to Chicago to take on the Bulls. Each team has won one game in this year’s I-94 series, but the Bucks might have an advantage as the Bulls have lost four straight.
Stats of the Week
17.4/10.3/5.7/1.9/1.3 – Points/Rebounds/Assists/Blocks/Steals per game for Antetokounmpo in the nine games since the Bucks made their lineup change before their February 9 game against the Celtics.
20.2/7.1/2.7/1 – Points/Rebounds/Assists/Steals per game for Parker in the nine games since the Bucks made their lineup change before their February 9 game against the Celtics.
~1000 – The number of times those two players have awed me since the lineup change with a spectacular move or great play.
Quick Bucks is Milwaukee Magazine’s weekly roundup of all things Milwaukee Bucks written by Eric Nehm. You can also find his work at SBNation’s Brew Hoop or you can find him on Twitter @eric_nehm. In light of Kel Mitchell hosting the Bucks 90s Night on Friday against the Timberwolves, head to Twitter to tell him who you would choose from the 90s to host the event.